Cellular IoT deployments are ramping up so fast that the latest Ericsson Mobility Report has had to double its growth forecast from the previous report six months ago.
Ericsson says the forecast for cellular IoT connections has nearly doubled since November 2017. It’s now expected to reach an estimated 3.5 billion in 2023, driven by ongoing large-scale deployments in China. New massive IoT cellular technologies such as NB-IoT and Cat-M1 are fueling this growth, giving service providers opportunities to improve efficiencies and enhance customer value.
Mobile operators have launched more than 60 cellular IoT networks worldwide using these technologies over the same underlying LTE network to support a diverse range of use cases. In North America, these cases are centered on logistics and fleet management while in China it is smart cities and smart agriculture.
Meanwhile, the report says that North America is expected to lead 5G uptake, with all major US operators planning to roll out 5G between late 2018 and mid-2019. By end of 2023, close to 50% of all mobile subscriptions in North America are forecast to be for 5G, followed by Northeast Asia at 34%, and Western Europe at 21%.
Globally, major 5G deployments are expected to kick in from 2020 onwards. Ericsson forecasts over 1 billion 5G subscriptions for enhanced mobile broadband by the end of 2023, although that will account for just 12% of all mobile subscriptions globally.
Mobile data traffic is estimated to surge by eight times during the forecast period to reach close to 107 exabytes per month. By 2023, more than 20% of mobile data traffic worldwide is expected to be carried by 5G networks. This is 1.5 times more than the total 4G/3G/2G traffic today.
Like previous mobile access technologies, 5G is expected to be deployed first in dense urban areas with enhanced mobile broadband and fixed wireless access as the first commercial use cases. Other use cases will come from industries such as automotive, manufacturing, utilities, and healthcare.
First-generation, 5G data-only devices are expected from the second half of 2018. The first commercial smartphones supporting 5G in the mid-bands are expected early next year, while support for very high spectrum bands is expected in early to mid-2019.